Yacht buyers return

Wednesday, Feb. 17
Posted 2 p.m. EDT

The five-day 69th annual Miami International Boat Show opened last week in a smaller venue than in previous years, but with higher sales expectations by yacht dealers.

The past two years have been lean, with many manufacturers either closing up production or laying off employees. But according to The Miami Herald, this year boat brokers were relying on the pent-up demand that dictates a return to consumerism after a bout of frugality.

I can understand that. My husband and I regularly attend the show, even though we tell ourselves we're only looking. Three years ago, we sold a 37-foot catamaran that we lived on for a year and a half while we toured the Caribbean, and despite spending an amount probably equal to the purchase price of the boat on various repairs and additions, boat-owning really does get under your skin.

And whether it's homes, cars or yachts, upgrading to bigger and better models is a part of our national psyche.

Courtesy Mercedes-Benz
So even in a trimmed-down show this year, boat manufacturers unveiled eye-catching new models, including the Mercedes-Benz/Cigarette Racing Team 1,350-horsepower, 46-foot Rider, inspired by the new Mercedes SLS AMG sports car. The price for the sports car is $200,000, but the boat will set you back almost a cool million.

Sailboat manufacturers were also featuring new models, including the 375 Catalina sailboat, at a cost of more than $200,000, and the 38-foot Robertson-Caine Leopard catamaran for nearly $400,000.

On the last day of the show, The Miami Herald interviewed yacht brokers to gauge whether or not their expectations were met. Most said they came away feeling positive about sales in 2010.

A representative from Sabre Yachts, which was forced to lay off a "significant" number of employees in 2008 and 2009 due to poor sales, reported that the company sold several yachts last week, each with an average pricetag of between $700,000 and $1 million.

As one broker concluded, people have figured out that the world is not coming to an end and are loosening up their purse strings. So why not buy a yacht?

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